I first became acquainted with Stockfisch Records through their excellent stereo-only SACD discs; those discs were a revelation, and brought SACD reproduction to a new level – even if only in stereo. And the artists were superb, with gripping performances and fantastic storytelling from the likes of Allan Taylor, Chris Jones and Paul Stephenson. If you’ve yet to hear any of these fine artists, I’d strongly recommend getting the Stockfisch sampler disc, Closer To The Music; I’m certain you’ll be just as amazed as I was two years ago. This new disc by Eugene Ruffolo was the first Stockfisch SACD to come my way that offered surround sound, so needless to say, I was already primed for the upcoming listening experience.
I’m not going to beat up too much on this disc or Eugene Ruffolo, but can you say underwhelmed? My disappointment focuses on a number of areas, not the least of which is the surround mix, which is a stage perspective, and literally all over the place. I really expected more from Stockfisch; their wonderfully natural sounding stereo SACDs are a textbook example of SACD done right, and the surround portion of this disc is totally wrong. Instruments are coming at you from all directions; the typically intimate acoustic of a Stockfisch recording is all but gone. And my other major complaint comes from Eugene Ruffolo’s voice emanating solely from the left channel. I don’t have a problem with instruments placed in a natural acoustic, and yes, the voice is an instrument, but it’s really nice to have individual voices up front and center. That’s one of the problems I have with the Diana Krall SACDs; her voice is too often too heavily mixed into the surrounds, and requires a great deal of adjusting to get the balance right. No amount of adjusting could get the balance right here. Thank goodness that a stereo layer is available, which ameliorates some of the problems, but Stockfisch just got it wrong with this one. Great performances tend to push their way past inferior sound; I found this disc unfortunately lacking in almost all areas.
— Tom Gibbs